By Jean DePlacido
---- — Helder Braz will join his siblings Fernando and Gina in the Peabody High Athletic Hall of Fame next Friday.
That same night, there will also be another member of the Bettencourt family inducted when Kevin Bettencourt joins his brother Ted and his sister Julie (Broughton).
Braz was a three-season track standout for the Tanners and went on to run at UMass Dartmouth, where he set the school 5,000 meter record that stood for several years.
This marks his second induction after going into his college’s Hall of Fame last year.
“I was surprised to hear about the Peabody one,” said Braz, who still makes his home in the city. His son Ben Braz is on the Tanner track team, and older brother Evan was also an outstanding runner. “Usually you go into your high school one first. so this took me by surprise, but what a nice honor. We’re going to have a good crowd there and fill a couple of tables with all the relatives.
“To be honest, I had kind of wrote the Peabody Hall of Fame off. I was a better track athlete than cross country in high school, but in college I turned it around to become better at the longer distances. I think the reason was because I got more serious about it. I never even knew I had that 5,000 meter record until somebody told me about it not long ago.”
That record stood for a long time before being broken two years ago.
Braz said he relied on his natural talent and didn’t work as hard as he could have until his college years. “I think I realized they were paying for my education and I better work harder,” he said. “I was one of those guys who didn’t do my summer running, so for a mile or two I used my speed. When I realized how much more there was to the sport, I got better.
“I have no regrets, though. I loved college and came out owing no bills. It’s so nice to sit back and watch my own kids now. I still get nervous, but a different kind of nervous feeling than when I competed.”
The Hall of Fame dinner and awards ceremony will be held at the Danversport Yacht Club, and tickets are available through the Peabody High athletic office or by calling 978-536-4752.
Alex Soucy settled into the role of kicker for the St. John’s Prep football team with ease after switching sports.
He had been a soccer player all his life, but the Beverly native went to see coach Jim O’Leary after being cut from the soccer team last year.
He was thrown into action shortly after joining the team at the end of a 0-0 game against Central Catholic when he was called upon to kick a 35-yard field goal. That was a baptism of fire, and although that kick came up just short he’s playing a key role this season for the 8-1 Eagles.
“Connor Shaw was injured and Stephen Camarro usually takes field goal kicks, but coach (Peter) Argeros called my name to go out there,” said Soucy of his FG attempt. “My job is to handle punts and kickoffs. I might get the call if it was a long field goal; otherwise Stephen takes them.
“I played soccer all the way up until my freshman year at St. John’s, when I had the weird idea to try football. I tore my hip flexor at the very first practice, and we weren’t even in full gear. I made the JV soccer team as a sophomore and started all year, but got cut junior year. I thought about kicking for the football team, and my parents encouraged me to do it even though they already had a couple of kickers.”
O’Leary was delighted to add Soucy to the team, and the move has worked out perfectly. Camarro has been automatic on extra point attempts, and Soucy takes care of punting and kickoffs.
“We have a long history of getting people with strong legs from the soccer team. David (Crowell, the Prep soccer coach) does a nice job sending them our way if they get cut.
“ Alex is ranked No. 25 in the country, and it takes so much pressure off the offense when your kicking game is strong. We’re fortunate to have two outstanding kickers. Alex has taken the job seriously and worked with kicking coaches. He’s on recruiting lists, and he’ll use it to get into the best academic college.”
Soucy went to Pro Kicker camps in Washington, D.C., and at Holy Cross. He has been invited to attend the National Kicking Championship in Bradenton, Fla. after the season.
“I’ll be ranked again there, and all the Division 1 schools will see my information,” he said. “I like D-IA schools like Rhode Island and visited Holy Cross.
“Right now I’m keeping my options open. Pitt offered a kid from the Northeast who’s ranked just above me, so that’s encouraging. Stephen, Jonathan Shaffer and I all practice together and encourage each other.”
Kerri Zerfoss had a great freshman soccer season at Pingree and led the league in assists (13) to go with nine goals.
Pingree blanked Kimball Union in the NEPSAC tournament opener to advance to the semifinals, but will be without Zerfoss the rest of the way. The Peabody resident is going to an ODP (Olympic Development Program) event for the top 18 players in their age group from Maine to Virginia. They will take on teams from the other three regions of the country at Boca Raton, Fla.
The Highlanders’ leading scorer was freshman Charlotte Esty from Ipswich.
Coach Dushawne “Doc” Simpson isn’t the only member of his family having a great season; his wife Kristin coaches the Division 1 North champion Beverly High girls team.
Zerfoss and Esty play for Doc Simpson at Aztec along with three members of the Panthers: 50-goal scorer Caitlin Harty, Casey Cook and Kristen O’Connor.
The Rachael Mackey Scholarship Fund got a big boost from an event at Scoreboard in Woburn last week. New England Patriots starting defenders Kyle Arrington and Kyle Love, along with their NFL Player Agent Sean Stellato, hosted the event. Unfortunately, Mackey lost her courageous battle with a brain tumor a few days earlier.
Money raised helped fund the scholarship fund which will be given to a Danvers High student annually.
Jean DePlacido is a part-time writer and columnist for The Salem News. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.